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Newbury Operatic Society - The Pirates of Penzance

18th to 20th October 2007.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Policeman's lot was such good darn fun

Newbury Operatic Society: The Pirates of Penzance, at Trinity School, from Thursday, October 18 to Saturday, October 20

Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance has enjoyed many different interpretations through the years, since it was first performed in 1879. In watching Newbury Operatic Society's production last week I was reminded why; it is just such good darn fun.

Musically, it was a treat; musical director Michael Evans is to be congratulated for the quality of the singing (and good diction) and the balance between the singers and his superb small orchestra - and how refreshing to hear a natural performance with no amplification and still hear every word. The Ode to Poetry was spine-tingling.

There were some outstanding principal performances; Jeremy Mann as the Pirate King was in fine voice with an appealing swashbuckling presence and swagger, Rosy Alder as Mabel was in delightful voice with a perfect demeanour and Sam Murray as Ruth, the Pirate Maid of all Work, showed super characterisation and excellent comedy and vocals. Mike Scott-Cound was impressive in his signature song as Major General Stanley and Stuart Buchan delivered his role of Frederick very well, although the part was vocally out of his range. Good support was provided by the smaller principal roles and the chorus.

Director and choreographer Jeanette Maskell created a huge sense of fun and there were some nice unusual touches. The use of the auditorium was effective, with the girls and police entering from the back (truncheons all a-swinging). There was good interplay between the chorus and principals and simple choreography served the action well.

This show is essentially a Victorian fantasy, and as such I found all the women's costumes anachronistic and distracting. However, using the mature ladies of the chorus as the police force was a great idea - and worked, but would have been better with all of them in period costume. That said, the pirates were colourful and the simple well-painted backcloths served the action well.

It was a lively and hugely enjoyable evening and, deservedly, enthusiastically received.

Proceeds of the gala evening go to the West Berkshire Community Hospital League of Friends.